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A Bridge Too VAR

May 8, 2018

Should we use technology to officiate in sport?

Last weekend saw the Grand Final of the domestic Australian Football competition, the A-League, between the Melbourne Victory and the Newcastle Jets. It was a fairly dour game to finish off the season, and it was marred by the deciding (and only) goal of the game being incorrectly allowed.

Normally a referee error or two would be par for the course. After all, it is a sport involving human judgement, and there is no way perfection can ever be achieved. Except this game was utilising the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology—which comes with it the expectation of perfection.

The VAR decided to have a hissy-fit and crash, right at the critical moment when it was needed to make a decision on offside for what proved to be Melbourne’s match-winning goal.

And so it has once again brought up the long-standing debate between technology and sport. Should we be using it at all, and if so, what level of involvement should it have?

But technology has crept its way into just about every sport, and along with it, the opinion that it has no place being there in the first place. Whether it’s in cricket, where the argument is that it’s against the tradition of the game; the AFL, where the vision never seems to be conclusive anyway; or the NRL, where it can quite frankly obliterate any momentum in the game.

The only sport that seems to have the balance at least partly right is tennis, where the onus is completely on the players to utilise the technology—and are punished through a lost challenge if they are shown to be incorrect. Otherwise, it is completely up to the human umpires to run the game.

But, as we all know, the influence of technology is not going away. You just need to take a walk outside and see everyone glued to their phones to see that.

So, like everything in life, it needs to be about balance and moderation. We will never attain perfection, and the sooner we all learn that, the better. When it comes to technology in sport, the focus should be on how it can assist the game, and not overtake it. Otherwise, unlike the Melbourne Victory, we’ll all be caught offside before too long.

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